One could certainly argue Aljamain Sterling hasn’t become a household name just yet, despite having won nine straight and defending the UFC’s bantamweight crown three times. But, according to a man who needs no introduction in thousands of homes, Daniel Cormier, a win over Sean O’Malley will rocket Sterling into a new orbit of recognition.
As you likely know, recently Sterling added another pivotal win to his resume, by defeating former champ-champ, Henry Cejudo at UFC 288. For some time now, Sterling has let it be known he would be pursuing a scrap with O’Malley if he defeated Cejudo. After he did so, the UFC confirmed Sterling – O’Malley is a go.
While it’s not known for certain, when the bantamweights will fight, there’s been no shortage of discussion about the match-up, since it was confirmed the two will clash. Not only is the fight an intriguing one from a technical vantage point, but it’s also a compelling bout from a brand and persona perspective.
After all, in O’Malley, you have one of the fastest-rising commodities in the game, who has built a massive following since he joined the UFC in 2018.
Aljamain Sterling’s pivotal win at UFC 288
While Sterling has certainly established himself as one of the best fighters on the UFC roster, he remains a polarizing figure. Case in point, despite the fact Sterling wasn’t fighting far from home at UFC 288 in New Jersey, there was no shortage of support for his opponent, Cejudo. A fighter, who while ridiculously decorated, has been nicknamed “The King of Cringe” for very good reasons.
The win over Cejudo unquestionably bolstered Sterling’s resume to a great extent. But, due to the fact the fight was so competitive, it’s another win that’s undergoing some scrutiny, similar to Sterling’s first DQ win over Petr Yan, and his quick stoppage of T.J. Dillashaw (and the latter’s wonky shoulder).
Well, none of this seems lost on Cormier, who recently talked about Sterling’s expected clash with O’Malley, and what a win could do for the “Funk Master” (quotes via MMA Junkie).
“If Aljo can get through Sean, (it) will elevate Aljo to a point where it’s undeniable,” Cormier said on his program “DC & RC.” “Because for as good as Khabib (Nurmagomedov) was, he wasn’t the Khabib we know today with 30 million Instagram followers until he beat Conor McGregor.”
Now, in terms of Sterling’s audience, it’s hard to argue with Cormier here. There’s no doubt that a win over O’Malley could be huge for his brand and fanbase. Especially if he records a dominant victory or highlight reel finish. Sure, it wouldn’t extend Sterling’s reach and audience to rival Khabib’s, but it could be monumental.
But…what if Sterling just eeks by O’Malley? And in a more of a controlling, “don’t worry, there’s plenty of time to blink”, kind of fashion? Will that kind of win really bump Sterling’s stock in a massive manner? Probably not.
Aljamain Sterling will be facing a “huge” Sean O’Malley
All that aside, Cormier also had some takeaways from Sterling’s much-discussed, in-cage faceoff with O’Malley.
“First off, Sean O’Malley seems very confident going into the fight with Aljamain Sterling and why wouldn’t he be when he hasn’t really been tested in that way outside of Petr Yan?” Cormier said. “Two things stood out, though: One, Sean O’Malley looked huge. Aljamain Sterling is one of the biggest guys in that weight class. He’s one of the tallest guys. … Secondly, he kept saying you’re gonna fight much sooner than you think you are.
“What is Sean O’Malley alluding to? What does he know that Aljo may not even know yet. He’s telling him he’s gonna be cutting the weight right now because they’re gonna fight again. I mean, are they gonna try to turn Aljamain Sterling around in three months, four months, to make him fight Sean O’Malley?”
It will be interesting to see if Sterling responds to DC’s assessment here, given that following UFC 288, the champ claimed he would have no trouble running through a “frail” O’Malley. But, regardless of whether Sterling truly believes he’ll quickly break O’Malley when they fight, the lead-up to the contest has the makings of something special. The jackets that will be donned by both men alone, never mind the trash talk, could make any press conference a must-see.
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